Ankles Aplenty

The West Virginia offensive backfield isn't the only position that has been plagued by ankle sprains and injuries.

Just like their offensive teammates, the men in the defensive trenches for the Gold and Blue have been battling sprains and strains to the suddenly vulnerable joints. For WVU, ankles appear to be the new knee.

Among the defensive linemen, Pat Liebig, Craig Wilson and Doug Slavonic are all battling problems with the foot bone - leg bone connectors, and it could have an impact on West Virginia's defensive line rotation. Wilson, who is being evaluated during WVU's final practice sessions, will have a difficult time in getting healthy enough to see the field. That will move Liebig into a more prominent role alongside Warren young, Keilen Dykes and Johnny Dingle up front. James Ingram, whose playing time has decreased as the season has progressed, is also available.

"It's just bad luck, I think," said Slavonic of the rash of ankle problems that has beset the Mountaineers. "Doug Slavonic has one too, and it's still bothering him. When I hurt mine,it was by accident. An offensive lineman fell on me in practice. He got me right on the side of it, and it rolled up."

Those sorts of injuries often happen in the mass of bodies that collide in the trenches, so it's not a surprise that linemen are often fighting lower leg injuries. Given the frequency and violence of those battles, the wonder of it it that it doesn't happen more.

Given their tough guy repuations, the big guys up front are often expected to "play through the pain" and get back out on the field. Liebig, whose toughness is certainly unquestioned, explains that sometimes injuries such as the high ankle sprain he suffered just can't be played through.

"For a high ankle sprain, you need three or four weeks off of it to get it better. You never get that during the season," he said with a rueful chuckle. "You might get three or four days at the most. I've been hurt all year it seems like."

Despite battling the high ankle sprain, as well as a bad back that has plagued him throughout his career, Liebig still managed four starts on the year, including the Rutgers game, where he started at nose and again acquitted himself well. That is, until fate intervened again.

"The Rutgers game I played the first three quarters and was able to play through the pain, he noted. "But in the fourth quarter I got cut again [on the ankle] and they got me so good I couldn't play. No matter how much adrenaline you have, sometimes you can't play through it."

So, Liebig, along with a number of his teammates, have been concentrating as much on healing as they have on Georgia Tech over the past couple of weeks. He thinks he is back now ot his pre-Rutgers level, but knows that he's only one bad hit from being sidelined again.

"Once I warm up it seems like it goes away," he said as he discussed his heavily taped ankle. "It's still swollen up."


Liebig, like most players on the interior defensive line, doesn't have eye-popping stat lines. He was credited with just 11 tackles on the season. however, his play inside was one of several keys that helped WVU hold foes to just 2.8 yards per carry on the ground.

* * *

Liebig, like many of his teammates, isn't doing the town up during available free time.

"The last two days, I just laid in bed and rested," he said of hie bowl down time. I might go downtown once, but other than that I'm just trying to rest up. That's pretty much what everyone else is doing."

BlueGoldNews Top Stories